Regatta Reports
Marazzi is the new European Champion
By Luca Bontempelli, translated by Melinda Berge
Sep 14, 2007, 12:45

Racing Results
First Race Report
Second and third race reports
Fourth and fifth race reports
Sixth and final race

Start of the European Championship

93 teams from 27 nations start racing Monday with 6 races, the last one on Friday. The starts are each day at 1300 with anticipated “Ora” winds of this season to be at 15 knots.

Racing in the regatta is the tactician of Luna Rosso and the Star Olympic Champion Torben Grael, the helmsman of +39, The Englishman Ian Percy and other Star World Champions such as the Swede Frederik Loof, the German Alex Hagen and the Italians Roberto Benamati and Enrico Chieffi.

The number of participants is a record for a Star European Championship. The “open” character of the regatta (it was not necessary to qualify to race) has brought the extraordinary participation of 27 countries and confirms the success of this class that started racing in the Olympics in 1932 and, with the single year of 1976 of non-participation, has always been present at the Games.

Two world champions, Benamati and Grael
For Italy, this event is valid as a selection event for the team that will represent the country at the 2008 Olympics in China. Due to this the Italian participants are the largest group at Malcasine with 33 boats. After two previous races of selection of the 5 total that are planned, clearly in command of being the Italian representative to the Olympics are the pair from Guardia di Finanza, Diego Negri and Luigi Viale, in front of another team from Finanza, Francesco Bruni and Gilberto Nobili. Negri and Viale finished 5th at last year’s Europeans and obtained the same result (the best of the last decade for Italy) at the World Championship in Portugal in July. Also racing at Malcasine are the last two Italian Star World Champions, the local Roberto Benamati (1992) and Enrico Chieffi (1996),

The Star class is the class in which Italy has gotten its best Olympic results – 5 medals:

1 Gold (1952) Straulino and Rode
1 Silver (1956) Straulino and Rode
3 Bronze (1968) Cavallo and Gargano; (1980 and 1984) Gorla and Peraboni

In the history of the European Championship (first sailed in 1932), Itally has won 15 times with Agostino Straulino holding the record or 7 consecutive wins, but the last Italian European Champion with an absolute win in the regatta was in 1985 by Gorla/Peraboni.

Italian victories at the European Championship:
9 Straulino (1938, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1959); Nordio (1947), Casentino (1948), Pisani (1960), Croce L. (1963), Rolandi (1965) and Gorla (1985)

First Race:
With 93 boats from 27 countries, Diego Negri and Luigi Viale finished in front of Francesco Bruni and Gilberto Nobili. Also doing well in the race was the former World Champion, local Roberto Benamati

Negri/Viale winning first race
The “Ora” wind was “tired” and behind schedule for the start of the European Championship. The regatta was planned for 1300 but a pair of false starts caused general recall flags to be raised. Finally, at 1540 the fleet started with a wind at 10 knots and the windward mark at 200°.

Diego Negri started at the leeward end and was the first to go the Veronese coast. Making a less extreme choice, Francesco Bruni had his bow higher on the left in the same area where the World Champion and local sailor (from Malcesine) Roberto Benamati went in better days.

When, going along the Veronese coast, Negri arrived at Point Campagnola it was already clear that he had no adversaries on his side and an optimal angle on the buoy but with the other boats far on the other side of the lake it was hard to know who was ahead. Negri to the left, Bruni to the right with almost the whole lake to cross. It seemed impossible with a mile of water separting them and all the varying conditions but the boats arrived at the mark separated by less than a length. A little behind was Benamati, passed just at the buoy.

The order around the first mark: Negri, Bruni, Benamati. Then Marazzi (SUI), Bromby (BER), Andersen (DEN). The favorite, the Brazilian Grael rounded in tenth. Then came the former world champions, the English Percy, the German Hagen, and the Swede Loof.

For Italy, who has not won a continental title of the Star Class since 1985 in Copenhagen (Gorla and Peraboni on their Folli boat), the order at the first mark was nothing less than stupefying.

Bruni kept to his right downwind on the Bresciano side. Bromby, at the bottom of the leg took the left gate which made Negri undecided on his rounding. Finally he also opted for the left side (Veronese) and went well. In the last meters of the leg, Bruni decided on the right buoy but it is the left one that won the race. Bromby went down the 2nd leg well and got ahead. But Negri is formidable and rounded the buoy at the same time as Bromby and exited in a safe leeward position in perfect control. Bromby was actually leading the race for less than 10 seconds. Negri’s rounding, absolutely perfect, would be worth a slam dunk in basketball. In fact it can’t be underlined too strongly that this rounding decided the race.

That moment was the best Negri has sailed in the season (and not a season to throw away given that the Italian took 5th place at the World Championship in Portugal a few weeks ago) and more probably the best Negri ever has been.

But he was not finished here. Negri now sailed freely but there was another champion who still had something to say about the race. And it is necessary to remember that the European championship of Malcesine is a test to select the next Italian Star competitor for the 2008 Olympic Games. Negri is far in front of these selections to date. In second is Luca Modena, but 3rd is Francisco Bruni, who was the last Italian to represent the Italian colors at the Olympic Games (seventh in Athens). Clearly Bruni does not consider the selection settled (and demonstrated this by being first to the mark on the first leg). When at the beginning of the second downwind leg Bruni found himself in third with Negri launched towards victory and had endured a pair of tacks on the nose which made him slip to third place (behind Bromby, the only one today in a position to bother the Italians), he could have yielded to a letdown. I, you, anyone would have done it. But we are normal sailors. Bruni is not. He patiently worked hard to not lose much distance and returned to 2nd place at the end, Negri flew, Bruni was right there. The European championship could not have begun better.

Races 2 and 3:
It was an ideal day with two races completed, one in the morning with fresh wind from the north and one in the afternoon with a slightly weaker wind fron the south.

Two ex-world champions stood out, the Swede Loof and the English Percy with a first and a second for each. In difficulty were most of our local sailors of Malcasine. Wind speed wise it was imposible to hope for any better, as the second day of the championship offered the best of what the Lago di Garda is able to offer in variety and intensity.

The 2nd race started at 8 am more or less near the Castello di Malcesine with the “Peler” (north wind) arrving in the course of the race and occasionally gusting to 26 knots. The third race started a little after 3 pm (after a general recall and under a black flag) with a “Ora” wind (Garda’s south wind) which had managed to overcome the morning’s north “Peler” wind even if it turned out to be weaker and more variable in direction. The race started with 8-10 knots and ended at under 5 knots which means the crews were unable to hike. Both in the morning and afternoon the course was 5 legs and finished to windward. In the morning the spectacle of a strong wind was supurb.

First race of the day:
At the first mark the precursor of leadership was seen in the gold star, the symbol on the sail for world champions. First was Loof, then Percy (also an Olympic champion in the Finn in 2000, beating our Luca Devoti, as well as the helmsman for +39 in the latest America’s Cup), then the Brazilian Grael, then the German Hagen, then the Italian Enrico Chieffi who cronologically has the oldest gold star, having won his title in Buenos Aires in 1996.

With over 25 knots of wind, gybing in the Star is not simple. Even if fascinating. In the end, 8 masts broke on the downwind leg and an incalcuable number of boats broached. Chiefi was a victim and lost his position, ending up in 23rd. But replacing him as the top Italiam was another gold star holder, Alberto Barovier, who ended up 5th in front of Silvio Santoni (being from Tortole, he is accustomed to gales). The regatta ended with a large lead for Percy, in front of Loof and Grael. A fantastic podium. Diego Negri made a prodigious comeback ending up in 10th after passing the first mark in 50th place - a recovery that is only possible by the great talents used to high winds.

Second race of the day:
This was a race in nearly a dead calm. These are conditions that nearly all sailors dislike but the first two at the finish were the same as in the windy conditions of the 1st race of the day. The best Italians were the brothers Alexander and Andrea Nieverov, ahead of Chieffi. Percy now leads overall in front of Loof. Third overall is the Swiss Marazzi followed by the Bermudian Bromby, and Torben Grael is in 5th. The first Italian is Francisco Bruni in 6th with an 18th and 22nd today. 7th is Diego Negri (10th and 36th).

Wednesday is a lay day with racing resumed on Thursday.

Fourth and Fifth races:
Italian day at the European Championship: Albino and Fabio Fravezzi win the 4th race and Diego Negri and Luigi Viale win the 5th.

Percy (Great Britain) leads the regatta with Loof (Sweden) 2nd overall and Marazzi (Switzerland) in third. Negri in 4th just ahead of Grael (Brazil).

The championship concludes tomorrow (Friday) with the sixth and last race planned for 8am with the north wind.

Fourth race:
Wind from the north (“Peler”) strong, even if decisively inferior to the intensity of that wind in the 2nd race of this event (15 to 26 knots). The race committee again chose the “long” course (three upwind and two downwind legs). At 8 am sharp, all was ready with the starting line near the Castello di Malcesine. For the local sailors, with this wind, they have no doubt of which side to favor. One must go to the right, on the Veronese coast, given that at Punta Campagnola (about one third of the way up the leg), the wind turns and offers a progressive favorable wind shift to the bouy without another tack. This is the law of the lake, handed down from generation to generation.

But every dogma has its exceptions and Tuesday Ian Percy won the race in a “Peler" wind by instead going to the left, to the Bresciana coast. Considering this, the regatta committee positioned the starting line so that it favored clearly the left end of the line. But the first attempt to start had a large group clustered to the left side and caused the inevitable general recall.

After resetting the line, the second start was successful. First around the windward mark was Marazzi (Switzerland) followed by Alberto Barovier and Nando Colaninno together, then the local Albino Fravezzi sailing with his son Fabio. Second in the Star World Championship of 1980, 2nd in the European Spring Championship in 1986, many times Italian Star Champion, Albino Fravezzi is one of the legends of the class. He may no longer have the form of his best years but when he is good he can still be very good. In this 4th race, this morning, he was very good. He stayed near the front on the downwind leg, and then attacked upwind by going strongly to the left (honoring the tradition of the “Peler”) and was first around the 2nd windward mark and never looked back. A thrilling victory. So beautiful, that his son Fabio was said to have cried in his happiness after the finish. A success such as this achieved by father and son is very special, after much time spent sailing together. The Olympic champion Torben Grael also underlined the contributions of the Fravezzi family. And the third place of Barovier was not bad either.

Fifth race:
Wind from the south, less intense from the preceding day (race three) south wind, around 10 knots. Start was at 3pm with no general recalls. The route was to go all the way to the left without a tack until Punta Campagnola. Diego Negri and Luigi Vaile interpreted this perfectly without giving anyone else a chance to lead. They were leading at the first mark in front of their adversary for the Italian Olympic 2008 selection, Bruni/Nobili. Third was Enrico Chieffi. Good to see for Italian sailing.

The wind had some oscillations which seemed like a major problem but Negri was very secure in his sailing and no one caught up. Going back upwind, the fleet spread out but Negri was never seriously attacked. Bruni fought back, tried to get inside, but never was a serious threat. At the end the German Miller got in between the two Italians for 2nd. Percy, the overall leader, was not as good as usual. But the 5th race is when the discard comes into play, and so Percy’s 9th in this race became his throw-out. The Swede Loof is only 2 points behind Percy with one race left to sail. Third is the Swiss Marazzi who is still reachable by our Negri in 4th. Bruni is 6th, and Barovier is 9th.

Final Race:
The European Championship ends with the Swiss Flavio Marazzi winning the title by a single point over the Swede Frederik Loof and the English Ian Percy.

Good showing for the Italians who placed three teams in the top ten – 5th Bruni-Nobili, 7th Barovier-Colaninno, and 9th Negri-Viale.

In the end the regatta is won in a sprint in the last race. With 3 teams separated by a single point it was the final leg that would have been able to change the overall standings. Emotion was not lacking from this regatta. The new European champions are the Swiss team of Flavio Marazzi and Enrico De Maria, their first win of this continental title, absolutely worthy winners seen that they won (by a single point) over two teams of the caliber of Loof/Ekstrom (second, three times European champion, twice world champion) and Percy/Simpson (third, one time European champion, one time world champion), and also, a little more elevated in sailing, Grael/Ferreira (fourth, Olympic champion, twice European champion and once World champion).

The sixth and deciding race started with a north wind scarcely more than 10 knots. The start was good at 8 am with no general recall. Well, almost good. Because the letter X stayed up on the race committee boat to indicate that someone has a premature start. There were two boats over early, one of which was, unfortunately, our Italian, Diego Negri.

Marazzi went all out from the start and was already leading at the first buoy (where Negri, in third place, was stopped by the jury). Marazzi did not lose the lead the whole race (which, surprisingly, was a four legged course ending downwind). Loof and Percy, the dangerous competitors, were behind, around 10th place.

They had time to recover and they tried, succeeding in getting back to third place (Loof) and fifth (Percy). But it was not enough. They both finished with 20 points, against Marazzi’s 19 points. The Swiss had a scare in the end, when the Portuguese Domingos nearly passed him. But he did not succeed (finishing second in the race) and Marazzi, for the first time in the history of the Star class, won the European championship title for Switzerland.

For the Italians, three in the first ten is remarkable. The title has escaped Italy since 1985. But Diego Negri, with two first places in the six races, does not seem too distant from winning it eventually. Bruni, our last Olympic representative (seventh of seventeen participants in Athens) seems stimulated from the Italian competition, even if, although he says the contrary, he remains for the moment behind Negri in the Italian standings. And it is remarkable the constant progress of the Veneziano Alberto Barovier, finishing in the top 10.

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